It was still deep winter on the Southern Plain of Gallifrey and Marion was starting to chafe a little at being stuck in the house most of the time. Of course she could use the portal to visit Liverpool or Haollstrom, but February in England was proving to be thoroughly wet and dismal. It was spring on Haollstrom, but Hillary and Claudia-Jean were both busy with the election campaign and very often there was nobody there to meet her.

She had friends visiting, of course, but sometimes it felt as if she had heard all of their gossip already. She felt as if she needed something new.

Even Kristoph was busy with some very late nights in the Panopticon. The Bill to give limited autonomous powers to Athenica was proving more troublesome than anyone thought. He took an early breakfast and came home tired and irritated to a late dinner and tried hard not to talk about politics until bedtime.

One otherwise unremarkable morning with the plains still locked in by snow that came down every night, Marion woke to find that he hadn’t gone to the Capitol, yet. She sat up and glanced at the clock by her side of the bed. Kristoph never used a bedside clock. He was a Time Lord. He always knew what time it was. She looked around to see him wearing his dressing gown and sitting by the window watching the end of the night’s snow falling on the frozen garden below.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Why haven’t you gone to the city?”

“I’m taking a day off,” he answered. “I’ve ordered breakfast in bed.”

The breakfast came a minute later. Caolin entered along with two maids, one bringing the coffee pot, the other carrying a bouquet of roses. The breakfast was moon fruit followed by eggs Benedict and wholemeal toast and butter. It was Marion’s favourite breakfast when she had the leisure to enjoy it.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked when the maid had finished arranging the roses in a vase by her bedside and the servants all left the room. Kristoph threw off his dressing gown and joined her in bed, though the breakfast was just for her. He had breakfasted already. He took a cup of hot, fresh coffee and watched her eat.

“Valentine’s Day,” he replied to her question with a warm smile. “At least it is on Earth. We don’t always mark the day, with so much else to do, and so many other traditions in the galaxy, but I thought we might this year.”

This was his way of saying sorry for neglecting her. Marion realised that as she smelled the roses and recognised that they weren’t from the winter hothouse in the garden of Mount Lœng House.

“Where did you get them?” she asked.

“Kew Gardens in June,” Kristoph answered her. “With the early morning dew still on them.”

“Yes, I can tell.” Perhaps living on Gallifrey was doing something to her senses, but the remains of that early morning dew from a late spring morning in England actually had triggered a nostalgic memory. “Does that mean you went out early in the TARDIS to get them? I wish I’d been awake to come with you.”

“That would have spoiled the surprise. Besides, picking roses at Kew is actually a tiny bit illegal. I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble along with me.”

Marion laughed.

“So you stole roses for me! How devilishly romantic – like an old-fashioned highwayman.”

“Well, I DID send them an anonymous donation towards the upkeep of the glass in the tropical house,” Kristoph admitted. “Considerably more than the value of the roses.”

The dew was quickly evaporating, now, but it was delightful while it lasted, and Kristoph’s explanation of how he got the roses had made her laugh.

“Still, I think I would have liked to take a trip with you,” she admitted.

“I have one planned,” Kristoph assured her. “But don’t rush your breakfast. There is plenty of time.”

She didn’t rush. It WAS her favourite breakfast, and the prospect of a day out with Kristoph was pleasant.

“What about Rodan?” Is she not coming with us?”

“Not this time. She has gone with her favourite horses to visit her young beau on this Valentine’s Day.”

Marion was amused and a little shocked by that description of Breissal Arcalian. The two were not even nine years old, yet.

“Let’s say she is visiting one of her friends to show him the joy of horse riding. Her riding instructor is in attendance, too. She intends to introduce young Breissal to the skills of dressage and other joys of the paddock.”

“Did you have a girlfriend when you were eight?” Marion asked when she had finished breakfast, showered and dressed and they were on their way to the mysterious romantic destination in the TARDIS. “Is that usual on Gallifrey?”

“In ages past, oldblood heirs who had been to the Untempered Schism and begun upon the Candidacy would be formally betrothed to a suitable young girl by that age,” Kristoph answered her. “By suitable, of course, they meant a girl who’s family were politically, socially and financially equal to the family of the heir. By my generation that idea was long gone, though the fact that I was such good friends with Lily did not displease anyone.”

“Ah, of course.” Marion smiled. Lily had always been Kristoph’s sweetheart, even when they were both children. It was only by a deeply tragic set of circumstances that they had never married and spent a long, fulfilling life together.

“That was a long time ago,” Kristoph assured her. “You are my sweetheart, now. If I’ve taken you for granted lately, I am sorry. I should never fail to make you feel special.”

“You never fail to do that,” Marion told him. “I know you’re busy. I don’t mind you being away so much. It is important work.”

“Not so important as being with you,” Kristoph replied. “But let’s stop this, now. We’re starting to sound like characters from a Disney family movie trying to outdo each other with terms of affection. Besides, we’re there. Put your coat on. It’s not raining, but it is rather cold.

He was right about that. It was one of those wintery days where the sky was pearly white and the air chilly. It was the sort of sky that occurred under the blue troposphere of Earth as well as the yellow one of Gallifrey.

They were on Earth. Marion knew that straight away as she stepped out onto a busy pavement and a narrow street where traffic passed in front of a large grey church, possibly a cathedral, that stretched the length of the opposite pavement. She looked around at the door Kristoph had just closed. It was a blue painted wooden door next to closed shutters over the window of a Chinese herbalist shop. Next door to that establishment was a closed down tanning salon and a small night club that might open in the evening. It all looked like something in the less salubrious parts of Liverpool.

Marion looked up at a street sign and noticed that it was bi-lingual. The absorbed energy of the TARDIS allowed her to translate the second language but it was a moment or two before she recognised that the language was Irish.

That made it the FIRST language according to the Irish constitution, of course, and thus it was above the English words on the sign, but for Marion it served to identify where she was.

“We’re in Dublin?” she guessed. “And a slightly dingy bit of it, at that. We could just as easily gone to Mount Pleasant or Tuebrook.”

She wasn’t complaining, just puzzled why Kristoph thought Dublin was a particularly romantic location for St. Valentine’s Day.

“Come this way,” he told her. He closed his hand over hers and led her across the road to the entrance to the church. She wasn’t displeased by that. She liked looking at old churches and this one was a very nice example of early nineteenth century ecclesiastical architecture. It had a high, vaulted knave and several very interesting side chapels and niches where people could light candles and say prayers to their chosen saints.

The one Kristoph wanted her to see was busy. They waited until several couples had finished making their devotions in front of the shrine. By that time, Marion had found an information panel and discovered that it was the resting place of the bones of Saint Valentine given to the Church of Mount Carmel, Whitefriars Street in 1836 as a token of respect for the priest who built the new church there. It was visited every day of the year by couples looking for a blessing on their engagements, and in particular on his Feastday – February the fourteenth.

“Isn’t it nice to see so many couples at the start of their lives together,” Marion said when it was her turn to light a candle before the shrine. “Love really is eternal. If we had visited here in any time, we would see them just the same, except in different fashions.”

“Well, I hope we’re a good example to them,” Kristoph answered. “An old married couple with the years behind us.”

“Not THAT old,” Marion replied with a laugh that echoed around the shrine. A few people were scandalised by the idea of laughing in a sacred place, but others recognised that the laughter came from a woman who was in love with her husband and was thanking St. Valentine for her good fortune.

“There’s a special Mass for couples in a few minutes,” Kristoph told her. “Would you like to stay for it? We can have our wedding rings blessed, if you like.”

Kristoph was not a Catholic. He was not even a Christian. That was something she had known about him for nearly as long as she had known him – even before she knew he came from another planet and a race of people who were themselves thought of as gods.

But when they were on Earth, among her own race, he respected the religion she had been raised in and he sat beside her during the solemn Mass for Saint Valentine and for couples about to be married, or who wanted to renew their love with a blessing on their marriage. When it was time to go up to the altar, where the casket containing Valentine’s remains had been carried from the shrine before the Mass began, he held her hand tenderly. They turned to each other before the altar and the relics, and held ring hands while they received the blessing.

“It really feels as if we HAVE been blessed,” Marion said afterwards when they stepped back out into the cool afternoon. “It ought to feel like an empty gesture. After all, I’ve seen so many other religions on other worlds. We’ve tested our love under the marriage portal at the end of the pilgrim trail of Gassib Bau. We celebrated it on Romance Night on Casoi 5. We renewed our vows in the Église Saint-Laurent in Parthenay. And yet… this felt special.”

“Yes, it did for me, too,” Kristoph admitted. “I expect that is because we really are in love with each other. It doesn’t matter where in the galaxy we are, it still feels the same.”

He held her arm gently and waved towards a horse drawn brougham with the hood up against the cold. Kristoph had hired it as a romantic way of travelling through the late twentieth century Dublin streets to the Shelbourne Hotel, where he had arranged a romantic tea for two followed by a short nap in the hotel suite he had booked. Later there was a dinner dance with a tasteful Valentine’s Day theme in the Shelbourne ballroom before returning to the suite for a peaceful night’s sleep and room service breakfast in the morning.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love,” Kristoph whispered as he slipped into bed beside his wife with the lights of night time Dublin shut out by the curtains and the noise of traffic by double glazing.

“And you,” Marion answered. “And thank you, my dear, for reminding me that winter doesn’t have to be dreary.